Sierra's online journal

Drowning December 25, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:30 am
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Day 25: Think of any word. Search it on google images. Write something inspired by the 11th image.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.co

Fifteen years ago, I was holding Momma’s hand for the last time. She’d been moved from the ICU to a “step-down” unit sometime between Christmas and New Year, giving me a sense of false hope. She was getting better then, right? Her head was propped on a tiny handmade pillow, a gift from hospital volunteers whose purpose it was to make families feel a little cheerier as they watched their loved one fade away before their eyes. My dad had left for work, that much I remember. I don’t recall if it was me or my sister sitting vigil at the time but whichever one of us was there had called the other. “I think you should come.” At some point, her best friend showed. And it was the three of us, huddled around her bedside. She was sleeping, I think. Or at least not lucid. I remember watching her breathing, holding my own breath for long pauses until she drew in her next. I remember panicking and calling for a nurse when I saw the flashes of blue in her face, across her lips. I remember medical staff rushing in as we stepped back to make room. I remember someone—a head nurse maybe—shout a reminder to her staff. “She has a DNR.” I remember watching all the monitors she was hooked up to, searching for proof that she was breathing. That her heart was still beating. I remember feeling helpless and lost. I remember someone, maybe me, calling my dad at work, telling him to hurry. I remember a panic attack and repeating over and over, “I need Chris.” I remember someone rubbing my back as I called him, begging him to come. No one had come out and said it, but it was understood. This was it.

I remember them pushing morphine through her IV and the way her eyelids fluttered as she opened her eyes to look around the room one last time. I remember holding her left hand between both of mine, crouched by her bed, murmuring to her, “It’s okay, Momma. We’re gonna be okay.” I remember holding it, still, after the staff had turned off the machines and told us to take all the time we need. I remember still holding it when my father appeared in the doorway, breathless. I remember the way his body crumpled when he realized he was too late, that she was gone. I remember feeling guilty that we’d been there and he hadn’t.

I don’t remember how long the five of us—me, my sister, our dad, Momma’s best friend, and my fiance—sat in her room after she was gone. She looked so peaceful that she could’ve just been sleeping, a thin white sheet covering her body. There were no more beeping monitors. No more labored breathing. No more blue skin. Just peace. I don’t remember what anyone said because, what can you say really? But eventually we found the strength to leave that room. To leave her. To try to learn how to go on living without her.

Every year on January 2, my sister and I still have dinner with Momma’s best friend to mark the day that the three of us clutched onto her as she left this world. But this year, the pandemic has made that annual dinner impossible. This past year has brought so many changes in routines, in traditions. But this one cuts the deepest yet, I think. This isn’t a shared experience that many people are missing all at once, like Thanksgiving dinner or the chance to have a birthday party. This is a very quiet, personal occasion that the pandemic is stripping from me. And I’m left angry. Sad. Alone.

I’m drowning. So much has changed or been canceled or taken away since March 2020 and it’s all felt overwhelming. I don’t recognize myself. I don’t recognize the world around me. Some days, I feel like the best thing to do would be to stop paddling, succumb to the waters. But it’s a new year. And vaccines are coming; several of my friends in the medical field have already received their first dose. For the first time in months, I feel a sense of hope. Hope that my second grader will be able to return to school five days per week. Hope that there might be concerts and plays to attend. Hope that a trip to the grocery store won’t cause anxiety forever. Hope that maybe we’ll be able to host a party again. So I’m going to stay home alone for dinner tonight, rather than spending it with the two ladies I really want to be spending it with. And tonight at bedtime, I’ll do what I do on the especially hard days—put some of Momma’s perfume on that tiny handmade pillow from her deathbed and cuddle it to sleep. I survived losing her. And I survived 2020. And I’m going to keep thrashing to keep my head afloat until I reach the shore.

See related: https://sks-whatevs.com/2012/11/14/a-moment-of-levity/


2020: The Year of Hard Lessons December 15, 2020

24: Write about a lesson you’ve learned the hard way.

Back in 2011, we here in Connecticut experienced Snowtober. If you’re not familiar, I’ll explain. It was Saturday, two days before Halloween, and the forecast was calling for accumulating snow. We all rolled our eyes and in true New Englander fashion insisted that “the first snowfall NEVER actually accumulates.” My husband and I did what most childless 20-somethings did that night. We put on Halloween costumes, loaded some friends into the backseat, and set out for the drive to our friend’s Halloween party. When the flakes began to fly, we kept partying, confident in our knowledge of how snow works. It’ll melt. The ground isn’t frozen enough for it to stick. It’ll blow over before it’s time to head home. A couple of hours into the party, though, the power went out. And a quick look out the window proved everyone wrong. It was sticking. It was accumulating. A lot. It was almost knee-high when we left the party. We cleared the windshield off in the black of midnight, the street lights reflecting off the surface of the snow that shouldn’t have been there. All the while, branches of the still leafy, snow-laden trees creaked and fell all around us. The roads weren’t plowed yet. Our little economy car slipped and slid the whole way but somehow, and I’m still not exactly sure how, we made it home safely.

The days that followed were hell. Most of the state was without power for about a week as crews cleaned up downed trees and repaired power lines region-wide. No power meant no heat for houses like ours, which relied on an electric furnace and wasn’t equipped with a generator. We gathered at friends’ houses who had gas heat. We leaned on our grill to cook food and heat water to keep the residents of our tropical aquarium alive. We joined so many others in town at the “warming station” set up at the middle school, where residents were encouraged to come warm up, charge devices, and take a hot shower in the locker rooms. We survived that awful week and to this day jokingly refer to the time as “our shelter days.” It was the worst week of my life and having lived through it, I insisted that I’d never wish it upon my worst enemy.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

And then 2020 comes strolling on up to the party and made me eat my words. I’m now a 30-something parent and let me tell you, a week without power in October sounds like a luxury vacation compared to the entirety of this year. We’ve had power throughout, which has been great; hot water, heat, a kitchen to prepare meals in. But we’ve had a global COVID-19 pandemic which brought with it masks and hand sanitizer that smells like grain alcohol and face shields and business closures and gathering restrictions and curfews and remote learning and social distancing and contactless deliveries and, for some reason, a toilet paper shortage. And did I mention that it’s been almost a year now? In March, it’ll be one. whole. year. A year of “the new normal” which I refuse to see as normal, by the way.

But with the year coming to a close, I, like many, like to take some time in December to reflect on what the year has taught me. What lessons have I learned from 2020?

  1. I don’t want to home school.
    Since she was in kindergarten, I half-wished that I could quit my job and stay home to educate my daughter. And 2020 brought me (almost) that opportunity; I was working from home for a good chunk of the year so that I could oversee her “distance learning” for school. What I learned, though, was that my bright, ahead-of-the-curve, super responsible student is a very different beast at home than she is in school for her teachers. She phoned in the last 1/3 of first grade and, so far, the first 1/3 of second grade. She puts in the minimum effort required for the assignment and after months of closely monitoring that all assignments are completed and turned in, I’m exhausted from the arguing and fighting and bartering it takes to get the work done.
  2. Time apart is just as important as time together with the ones I love.
    Specifically, I’m talking about the ones I live with. At first, I loved all of us being home together. Safe. Healthy. Insulated from the world. But pretty quickly, it all felt a bit suffocating. We’re three people plus a large dog who thinks he’s a fourth human, currently curled up next to me on the couch with a blanket swaddled around him. All living together in a tiny 1100 square foot house. There are very few places to go and none of them feel especially safe, to me at least. So we stay home, mostly. And staying home means toys and crafts are everywhere, always. The neatening up and cleaning is never done. Laundry and dishes? Flows that cannot be stemmed. I love my family. Let me be clear about that before I say this: Some days, I just need them to go away. Or I need me to go away. But…there’s just no. where. to. go.
  3. Physical touch is important.
    I’ve never considered myself much of a touchy-feely person. I don’t like coming in contact with strangers (like bumping someone’s shoulder in the store) or even acquaintances (like shaking hands at a business conference). When saying goodbye to friends and family, I’m often unsure if I should hug them or just wave and it usually results in me feeling awkward as I leave gatherings. But adhering to the stay-six-feet-away-from-other-humans “social distancing” protocols has been rough. I hug my daughter and my husband every day. Beyond that, I’ve hugged one other person (twice! I counted!) since March. And bawled my eyes out both times, elated to feel affection from someone outside of my household. When social distancing is a buzzword of the past, I’m hugging EVERYONE. And not just regular hugs. They’re going to be super long, awkwardly lingering hugs. Maybe with a leg thrown up on your hip if conditions warrant. If you’re a family member, friend, or acquaintance of mine, consider yourself warned.
  4. Connection in general is important.
    Game nights with friends used to be a group of us huddled around someone’s dining room table sharing onion dip, cocktails, and laughs. Now, they’re on zoom or otherwise online. Family parties, though not very frequent in the best of times, are non-existent currently. My involvement at my daughter’s school is next to nil, despite being treasurer of the PTO; only students and staff are allowed into the building and there are no extra-curricular events allowed. Parents are discouraged from waiting in the lobby at my daughter’s dance studio or on the soccer sidelines for practice so connecting with other parents is harder than ever. It’s easy to feel like an island, like I’m weathering this storm alone. I’ve done my best, and encouraged my daughter to do the same, by connecting virtually whenever possible. And though I lean heavily toward introvert, I’m looking forward to getting back to connecting in-person when we can.
  5. Loyalty should not be squandered.
    Fifteen years ago, I started working for my boss. I took the job “temporarily,” right out of college, “until I find something permanent.” But I ended up staying. It was a collection of related small businesses owned by the same man, whom I looked to like a father figure. For fifteen years, I looked to him as a mentor and appreciated being heard, “more than just a number” as I imagined I’d be a at a big corporation. It made it easy to overlook the unshiny parts of my job and of the company I worked for. I was unhappy. I wanted to jump ship. But I always talked myself out of it. I was comfortable. I felt a sense of duty and loyalty. And then, fifteen years in and without any forewarning or conversation since, my boss sold the company. The job that I’ve reluctantly kept for FIFTEEN YEARS is suddenly just not there anymore. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, unless I can find a way to pay bills with writing. But when I do start a new job, I’m going to go in with a clearer understanding that loyalty to a company that isn’t loyal to me is a complete waste of my energy.
  6. Change is manageable but instability is not.
    So many people are quick to assert that they “don’t like change.” Me? Bring it on. There’s something exciting about newness, freshness, change. The part I’m struggling with, though, is that the changes are coming too fast for me to fully adapt to before the next wave of changes come. And THAT’S what’s got me feeling discombobulated. A hybrid 2-day in-person school schedule rather than the standard 5? Okay, I can do that. But, just kidding…a fully remote schedule instead. But just kidding…hybrid. No, remote. No, hybrid. Can’t have more than 25 people in my back yard? Okay, no problem. Wait, now no more than 10? So can I have my family over for Thanksgiving or no? No? Okay, we’ll just change everything we’ve done since buying our house. No biggie. I can go where I want? I can’t cross the border into Massachusetts now? Okay, got it. I need to be supporting small, local business…great idea, yes! But I shouldn’t leave my house for non-essential reasons. Okay, no problem. My head is swimming, trying to be and do all the things I’m supposed to be and do, all of which seems to change weekly if not daily.
  7. You can’t fix stupid.
    I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout all this. My family is financially solvent, despite me being out of work currently. We’re all healthy; COVID-19 has not hit our house. [Excuse me while I take a moment to knock on wood.] We’ve been able to find the supplies we need when we need them, including toilet paper! But despite not having any first-hand experience with struggle during the pandemic, I still know that it’s real. I don’t have to personally see it to know that. The virus is real. Lots of people are dying. Many more are getting sick. And it’s not just us here in the United States; It’s called a GLOBAL pandemic for a reason. This isn’t just the US government trying to control us or find a way to microchip us without us noticing. What’s going on here is doctors trying to keep us alive. Scientists trying to keep us protected. We’re told to wear a mask and stay six feet from others. We’re told that vaccines are in production and will be available soon. And yet people, regular old people like me, are still parading around spouting absolute garbage as though they’re experts in epidemiology. I’m not an expert on any of this, either. So I rely on those that are. And ALL of my friends in medical and science fields are in agreement: Wear a mask, keep your distance, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. So that’s what I’m doing and what I’ll continue to do.

There are sixteen days left of 2020 and, let’s be honest, an undetermined number of days left of this pandemic. But I’m really hoping that 2020 and COVID has already taught me all the lessons they’re going to. Fingers crossed.


An open letter to our elves November 27, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 11:04 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Day 23: A letter to someone, anyone

Dear Sven and Lars,

Thank. Goodness. You’re. Here.

In true 2020 fashion, Sven and Lars arrived on a mask and brought with them a Grinch ornament.

From March, 2020 has been a complete dumpster fire of a year for my girl. She was six years old at the time and about two thirds finished with first grade. We told her, as the school had told us, that everyone would be home for two weeks and then we’d go right back to school. But those two weeks turned into two more and eventually stretched into finishing the school year at home.

Dance season? Very altered; classes on zoom from the living room, no competitions, no picture day, no recital.

Spring soccer? Didn’t happen.

Her seventh birthday was dashed, too. We’d normally throw a big party and she’d get to invite all the friends she wanted. There would be games and snacks and a cake (courtesy of my sister) worthy of one of those baking competition shows, all in whatever theme she picked. Instead, we ordered a to-go dinner, had a store bought cake that said “happy mother’s day” on top until her dad scraped the lettering off, and picnicked outside with the neighbors. Her friends who’d normally be at the party drove by in a birthday parade instead. But she smiled lots that day because you guys came for the weekend.

The stars of her seventh birthday

She had no field day, unless you count the slapped together one we hosted for a handful of friends and family in June. And we said goodbye to her first grade teacher through a car window and face masks. Her teacher placed a paper bag on my back seat which held all of her personal items from the classroom she’d left three months prior and we were on our way. No hug. No high five. Couldn’t. I cried on the way home.

Summer vacation didn’t feel very vacationy because there was nothing to do. Six Flags was closed. Movie theaters and bowling alleys: closed. The trampoline park? Also closed. Summer felt like more of the same. Waiting and hoping for normalcy.

Soccer started back up in the late summer, at least. As did dance. She didn’t balk about having to have her temperature checked, sometimes multiple times per day. She never complained about having to wear a mask or not hug her grandparents. She understood. She adapted.

When school started again in the fall, it was a “hybrid” schedule, which in our town means only two days per week in person and the rest of the week learning at home via iPad. Time in school means a mask all day. No water fountains. Recess is only with her “cohort” (the same seven kids in her class). No assemblies. No field trips. No Halloween party. No winter concert. Probably no field day again, though I guess we’ll see.

As of this Monday, school is fully remote again “for two weeks.” I’m trying to remain hopeful but frankly, I’ve heard THAT before. I’m bracing for finishing second grade at home and cringing at the thought of spending all winter cooped up at home with nowhere to go, ever.

We couldn’t have the Thanksgiving we normally have, either. We’ve hosted 12+ guests every year since we bought our house in 2008. But there were restrictions to gathering sizes this year and while probably not enforced, we complied. Realizing that Thanksgiving was different, she’s already started asking about Christmas. Will our family be able to gather for dinner on Christmas Eve? Can everyone still come over on Christmas morning for breakfast and opening gifts? Do we still get to go to Grandpa Lou’s and Grandma Sharon’s for Christmas dinner? “I don’t know, my love we’ll see.” I’ve said that to her so many times this year. And I’m sure she realizes by now that it almost always leads to disappointment.

So I’m going to need you guys to finish this year strong for us. She’s endured so much change and instability in her world this year. But you two visiting from the North Pole is one constant that she can count on. So be wacky. Make messes. Do some things that’ll bring a smile to her face when she finds you each morning. Keep the wonder and magic of the season alive, untainted by what’s going on out there in the world beyond our door.

So many of your elf friends spend the season with so many other families. And so many parents complain about having the extra house guest (or two if they’re lucky, like us). I just don’t get it. From Black Friday through Christmas Eve, you bring smiles and laughter to our whole family. How could any family lucky enough to host an elf NOT be excited?! Honestly, if you could stay all year, we’d love to have you.


A very drained mom

‘Tis the season

Musical Inspiration November 16, 2020

Day 22: Put your music on shuffle and post the first 10 songs.

Mom’s log. Stardate 11.16.2020. Day 215 of semi-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s a chill in the air in New England. I’m trying to figure out how to host our typical Thanksgiving dinner with gathering restrictions, implemented by the Governor, of 10 people or fewer. (Spoiler alert: It just ain’t happening.) Scrolling Facebook tells me that literally everyone and their mother decorated for Christmas this past weekend. (Not me! Not until after Thanksgiving!) And following school newsletters and announcements from the Superintendent has me bracing for a shift back to full-remote learning, imminently.

I can’t help but feel a sense of dread. The days are getting shorter, colder. Upcoming holidays are sure to feel lonelier than ever, what with the lack of parties and family feasts. I can’t remember the last time I hugged or otherwise touched someone that doesn’t live with me—not even a hand shake. There are fewer and fewer things to do as positive COVID cases rise and restrictions tighten. Curfews are in place again. Travel bans abound; I’m not even sure at this point if I can legally/safely travel outside of my own state. Right now, it’s easy to feel anxious. Alone. Depressed. Scared. So I find ways to combat all those monsters. I reach out to friends to socialize, even if only online. I look within myself and write. I turn on some music and try to forget.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

The music I tend toward these days leans heavily acoustic. Ballads, love songs. I generally choose music for the lyrics, the story a song tells. But sometimes the vibe of the song is more important than the words. Sometimes I need something a bit faster. Something to put a little pep in my step. Make me want to dance in the kitchen and belt out all the lyrics. A soundtrack to help me harness my bad-assery, if you will. Pump me up. Get me ready to face another day of distance learning and picking up toys and washing dishes and folding laundry, ad infinitum.

So here it is. I scoured Spotify for ten songs that get me there. There are more, for sure; I had to cull the list to just these ten, which was tough to do. And that fact—that limiting it to just 10 was difficult—filled me with optimism. There’s something for most everyone; some rock, some reggae, some hip hop, even a show tune! Several are explicit so you may not want to listen at work or around your littles. But press “play” when you can. Dance with me. Sing along. And remember that there’s so much good out there. Some days we just need to work a little harder to find it.

Crazy B*tch (Buckcherry)

Obxessed (Fire Choir)

Shake it Out (Florence + The Machine)

Oye (Mara)

So Hott (Kid Rock)

Sexy Can I (Ray J featuring Yung Berg)

Tambourine (Eve)

Rock DJ (Robbie Williams)

Seasons of Love (the cast of RENT, original motion picture)

Bruck It Down (Mr. Vegas)

There. That’ll do it. I’m feeling happy. Energized. Ready to face whatever else 2020 may throw in my face.


Lessons from the Campground September 11, 2020

Day 21: What three lessons do you hope your children learn from you?

Labor Day weekend has come and gone and just like that, summer is over. I spent my holiday weekend camping out with a small group of family and friends in my sister’s back yard. It’s a tradition that began nearly ten years ago. And it’s one that feels so important to us all that we’ve kept it going and have no plans to stop. It’s two nights of “roughing it” in tents. Screen time is virtually non-existent unless you count pulling out a phone to snap a photo or take a video; and we’ve got lots of both, thankfully. Bedtimes (and rules in general, for the most part) don’t matter. Priority is placed on quality time with each other and making memories to last a lifetime.

Every year, inevitably, the adults find themselves huddled together while the kids are off playing or sleeping or chattering until all hours of the night. And we muse over the fact that we hope our children hold the memories created during our camp outs for a lifetime. This year, we went as far as to imagine what the weekend will look like far into the future, when it’s our kids serving us and their kids food from the grill. There’s no doubt that these weekends are important to every last one of us campers. Fun to be had. Lessons to be learned. Here are three of the lessons that I hope my daughter, specifically, will take from these days…

LESSON 1: Your tribe is important. Choose them wisely.

Obligatory breakfast feast photo of the kiddos

The camping crew is a mix of family and friends (which I’ll often refer to as “framily” or my tribe). And, sure, not all of my tribe make the guest list; in fact it’s the same crew year after year with no new additions without passing a group vote. (And there WAS a vote this year so there WILL be new invitees next year!) We come in all colors, ages, sizes. We listen to different music, which often leads to a battle over the Bluetooth speaker that results in a country ballad followed by a reggae beat. We don’t all agree on the definition of a perfect s’more. Our parenting styles vary. But none of that matters because we mesh on things like know how to make each other laugh, de-stress, and have fun. We come together and all do our part to help out from unloading the cars on Saturday morning to packing up tents on Monday afternoon. And by the time we all return home, our stomachs are sore from laughing, our feet are filthy from walking around barefoot, and our hearts are full of memories that are burned into the very fiber of our beings.

LESSON 2: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is always a crowd favorite during karaoke time.

During daylight hours, you can find us campers making up games with various supplies from my sister’s stash of camping gear. Sometimes we craft together. There’s always swimming and, for the past two years, “bull rides” in the pool that involve the rider climbing or jumping onto a huge inflatable bull while others attempt to knock them down. There’s always a few who pull their air mattress out of their tents and take mid-day naps in the sunshine. (Guilty as charged this year!) By nightfall, the music is blaring as we line dance and sing karaoke. No matter what we choose to do, there’s no judgment. We’re all just there to have fun. Laugh. Forget that summer is ending, school is starting, and the world feels chaotic and scary most days. In that backyard, our campground, cutting loose and enjoying some levity is what it’s about.

LESSON 3: Unplugging is vital to the soul.

The glow of a screen is no match for the glow of a campfire

The connections we make online are important, sure. Social media helps us stay up to date on what the kids are doing and where everyone is vacationing and, yeah, even sometimes what you had for lunch. But the freedom to unplug from all that–from news and streaming TV and a constant barrage of status updates–is freeing. The connections we make around a campfire are so very different. Whether it’s staying up until 2am laughing over newly created inside jokes or sitting around in a lazy silence together watching the flames lick the fire logs, there’s nothing like the connection and togetherness that’s felt around a campfire.


Celebrity Hall Pass September 5, 2020

Day 20: Post about three celebrity crushes.

It feels a little wrong on a lot of levels to follow up my last post (about new love and forever love) with this one, in which I discuss the top three reasons I’d stray from my marriage. But a task is a task and I won’t back away. You know, for science….?

1) John Krasinski.

Photo source: https://instagram.com/johnkrasinski?igshid=1vqhgpomrmgck

If you’ve followed my blog at all, I’m sure you’ve heard me mention being in the sweet spot in life where I’m equally attracted to slightly older and slightly younger men. Dads and sons, if you will. Well, John is the dad in the equation, though he’s only got a few years on me. My initial love for him bloomed in The Office days; the man can convey so much with just a look and had me rooting for Pam and Jim all series. Add in the fact that he’s an amazing father to two little girls (with old-timey names!), a doting husband to Emily Blunt (that lucky bitch!), and a goofball through and through (have you seen his lip sync battle with Anna Kendrick?)…. What’s not to love? Finally, I credit him and his Some Good News web series with helping me through the worst of the covid quarantine this past spring.

2. Tommy Martinez.

Photo source: https://instagram.com/tommymartinez?igshid=cck0suca0d2s

If John is the dad in the equation then Tommy is the son, considering he’s almost a decade my junior. But have you seen that smile? I melted for him the first time when watching a video on his Instagram showing when he got the call back about landing the part of Gael on Good Trouble. He’s just a regular ol’ guy. With a megawatt smile and a man-bun and abs for days. (Gimme all of that!) But his role on Good Trouble is what really seals the deal for me. His character oozes sex appeal and his story arc helps bring to life some important themes including bisexuality (him) and gender identity (his sister).

3. Angelina Jolie.

Photo source: https://instagram.com/angelinajolie_offiicial?igshid=1v0bvzukpd59

The year was 1999. I was 16. And my first (but certainly not last) girl crush began when watching “Girl, Interrupted.” From there, I went back and watched “Gia.” And when I moved into my freshman dorm room, posters of her clad in sheer dresses adorned my walls. It wasn’t long until my mom began referring to Angelina as her daughter in law. I’ve not seen all of her movies and I’ve not even loved all the ones I have seen. But, good heavens, that woman can do no wrong in my eyes. She’s got a wild streak to her and a colorful past; we’ve all seen the infamous kiss with her brother and heard about the vial of (then-hubby’s) blood that she wore on a necklace. The beginning of her relationship with Brad was a bit contested, too, but to that I say, “Jennifer who?” Today, though? She’s a mom to a brood of children, biological and adopted. She’s a humanitarian, an activist. And, sure, she’s sometimes a bit too thin but would you leave the poor woman alone? She’s got grace, is beautiful inside and out…. And is single. Now’s my chance!


New love, forever love August 30, 2020

Day 19: Discuss “first love.”

“I’m having a midlife crisis.” The handful of people I’m closest with have had the distinct privilege of hearing me utter these words, usually amid heavy sobs or in a manic frenzy or while brooding about life in general. But am I really? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many days when I can do nothing but look around me and feel thankful for and proud of the life I’m fortunate enough to call mine. The life that I helped orchestrate through a series of careful choices and maybe a couple of reckless chances. And I’m in no way trying to detract from all the love and light and goodness around me. It’s there. I see it all. But despite all that, there are some days when I’ve got an acute awareness that many of life’s biggest decisions have already been made for/by me. Roots put down. Life cemented in place. More doors closed behind me than open in front of me.

This post has been about two years in the making. I’ve given it a lot of thought. Kicked the idea around in my head at all hours of the day and night. Searched for the right words that don’t make me sound ungrateful. Tried to formulate a coherent string of sentences that may help identify myself to others feeling the way I am. Unfortunately, this is as close as I’ve come. So here goes: On those really tough days, “midlife crisis” feels like the only descriptor adequate enough to define the profound feelings of…loss? Loss of youth. Loss of choices. Loss of opportunities to experience life’s big moments (and all of the feelings that are wrapped up in those experiences) just one more time.

One of those big life experiences is falling in love. And before I go on, it’s important to me to interject here and say a few things, beginning with that I am happily married. There is no doubt in my mind that I married my match and will live the rest of my life loving him. But this post isn’t about him. (If you want to read about him, you can do so here, where I gushed about him for our tenth wedding anniversary in 2018.) This post is about trying to find words to describe the differences between the love we have now versus “new love.” Because they are undeniably different.

The most succinct way I’ve ever seen the differences summed up came in a novel I read last fall, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. After reading, I jotted a quote, my biggest takeaway from the story. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me even more as time goes on. Here’s the quote:

“She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship…was the ultimate, the feeling they’d always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best–well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
excerpt from What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

There’s something to be said for new love, absolutely. For me, it starts with a spark of attraction that spreads like wildfire until a kaleidoscope of butterflies is flapping wildly in my gut. There are first dates and first kisses, tentative reaching and finding a comfortable rhythm. There’s giving and taking, yinning and yanging. There’s talking and listening and figuring each other out. An all-encompassing, breathless wanting. An I-can’t-get-enough need. My…sparkling mineral water certainly does quench a thirst, doesn’t it?

But no matter how exciting new love feels, those bubbles, that fizziness, it all eventually dissipates. Tattered, broken, unshiny parts are revealed. True colors poke through as if the harsh house lights have just flicked on after last call. And if you’re lucky, as I’ve been, you find the right tempo and the waltz truly begins. One two three, one two three. Count by count, all that feels good and right is boxed in. Fiercely protected. You lead each other through to the other side where love morphs into something more. A higher form. The French champagne.

And just as there’s much to be said about new love, so, too, is there about the kind of love we’ve got now, over twenty years after our first date. The forever kind. Love with the depth and breadth to encompass two lifetimes in one swooping arch. That kind of love is reliable, safe, comfortable, even easy after as long as he and I have been together. But when I use these terms to describe it, he turns up his nose at me, somewhat regretful that he’s no longer responsible for the butterflies and fizz. But it’s important to note that you can’t get to here, where we are, without having lived through the newness and beyond. Our love has gone through breakups and fights and more hard conversations than I can count. We’ve celebrated greatness, endured losses, faced hardships. We’ve created life and navigated parenting. We’ve supported each other in decisions that felt impossible to make, some with consequences that felt impossible to live with. And through it all, we’re still each others’ number one. And there’s no world in which I’d ever dare to replace or dispose of that. Ever.

Instead, I’ll close this with the valediction that he and I end every email, card, or letter to each other with. A phrase ripped from love letters between my paternal grandparents and inscribed on our wedding bands.

Always and all ways.


30-Day Writing Challenge


30! August 8, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:05 pm
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Day 18: Share 30 facts about yourself

The task seemed easy enough at first glance. But then I numbered thirty lines and am now staring at a blank screen, unsure what’s interesting enough about me to be deemed a fact worthy of sharing. Maybe they’re not all going to be winners. Maybe some of them will be boring or surprising or downright weird. But here goes. All thirty of them.

1) I. Love. Music. No, I can’t sing. Nope, I’ve never played an instrument. I know nothing about the technical aspects behind making it or arranging it or even describing it. I just know what I like. And I like to know what others like, too.

2) I’m fairly quick to admit (and apologize) when I’m wrong and find it infuriating when others don’t show me the same kindness.

3) I have tried and tried but cannot whistle.

4) There’s not much that I regret in life, as I’m a big believer in that everything happens for a reason and all experiences shape who we are. The one exception to my “no regrets” is that I didn’t have my dad walk me down the aisle.

5) Someday, I will publish a novel. (If it’s on this list, it’s a fact. And if it’s a fact, it’s got to happen. That’s how that works, right?)

6) Disorganization adds to my anxiety.

7) I used to love driving. Now, I’m much happier as the passenger.

8) I moved out of my parents house (and moved in with my sister) one week after junior prom night. I didn’t move back home for about a year. That time “on my own, with training wheels” was a formative time in my life and I’d not change it for anything.

9) Technically, I graduated high school in the top ten of my class. But in actuality, I was failing math and should’ve been held back. I’m forever grateful for the sympathy C that Mr. Austin gifted me in calculus so I could walk with my class.

10) I loathe being the center of attention. This becomes more true as the years pass.

11) I miss being a student. I don’t think I’d necessarily want to pursue another degree, though who knows? But I hope to someday be in a classroom again.

12) Here’s a list of things that I don’t consider at all when choosing who to surround myself with in life: race, gender identity, sexual preference, political affiliation, religious beliefs, ethnicity, level of education, economic standing…. In fact, it’s easier if I list the thing (singular) that DOES matter. Are you an asshole? Then I don’t like you. Literally everyone else is welcome in my life.

13) I stumble through parenting with this illogical, irrational fear that everything I say or do is somehow damaging my daughter’s psyche.

14) My mom, with whom I was extremely close, passed in 2006 at the age of 48. I was 22 at the time and feel like I was robbed of having an adult friendship with the greatest woman I’ll ever know.

15) I’ve got six years each of French and Spanish under my belt but don’t feel confident enough to speak either. However, I sometimes use one or the other to narrate in my head, just to test myself on how much I remember.

16) During pregnancy, I developed a taste for mint and mustard. (No, not at the same time. I just mean they’re two flavors I didn’t like before.) During the same time, I developed an aversion to most tomato sauces.

17) I feel physically the best when following a keto diet, but man, do I love carbs!

18) I fear stagnancy and change equally. Life is a balancing act and I don’t always have it just right. But I’m working on it.

19) I don’t have a favorite color. Most people don’t like to accept that response so when pressed, I’ll sometimes pick randomly.

20) While I’m a generally happy person in the mornings, I consider myself a night owl.

21) I used to buy nonfiction books with good intentions but rarely actually read them. (This includes The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, which I’m pretty sure makes me a bad feminist.) I’m still, holding out hope that I’ll read Becoming someday.

22) I am ruthless in Scrabble. It took me many years of practice with my mom before I finally won. And since then, I’m pretty much undefeated. Except for that one time when my husband played “djinni” and I challenged. (I’m still not convinced it’s a real word… He cheated!)

23) My first love passed away almost three years ago now. And though we’d not been together since we were practically babies, his loss still hurts me to this day.

24) I’ve always known I have trypophobia. I just didn’t know there was a word for it until I was in my 30s.

25) Trashy reality TV is my guilty pleasure. Love Island, Big Brother, 90 Day Fiance….gimme all of it!

26) My eyes are blue, despite the fact that my husband will try to convince you that they’re grey.

27) I’ve not eaten meat (including seafood and poultry) since I was about 12 years old. But I wish I could bring myself to enjoy chicken.

28) My top five favorite scents are, in no particular order: that moment when the rain first starts on a hot summer afternoon, warm fresh-from-the-dryer laundry, patchouli, anything citrus, and bleach. I said what I said.

29) I prefer my showers at night and hot enough to melt the skin off of me. Even during the summer.

30) My favorite day of the week is Thursday because sometimes the anticipation of Friday is better than the Friday.


30-Day Writing Challenge


Star Sign August 4, 2020

Disclaimer: I stalled on my 30-day writing challenge because the next assignment is to write about my star sign. And I don’t buy into all that so writing a non-fiction piece about my horoscope seemed like an insurmountable task. Which led me to the decision to mingle some fiction into my blog. So, I present to you a short scene from my someday-book. Who knows? It may be the first of more-to-come fiction pieces here. 


Ben – February 2000 – Spring semester, sophomore year

“Is this seat taken?” I asked, a calculated choice. I’d seen her around before. And by “around” I mean here, at the coffee shop. A bit mousy by most peoples’ standards, in appearance and in mannerism, she was not suited to be a barista. Not bubbly enough. Not outspoken enough. Maybe not pretty enough, to some. Instead, she seems to have been hired on to do the background tasks. Mopping the floors. Picking up errant straw wrappers. Refilling the plastic bins of wooden stirrers and cardboard coozies and multi-colored paper packets of sweeteners. Sanitizing tables when patrons had finally folded up their newspapers or paperbacks or notebooks of lecture notes and left. The jobs that nobody thinks of until they’re not done, suddenly a blaring problem in their not doneness. But to me? She’s never been a background player since the first time I saw her.

She glanced up from her laptop, eyebrows raised as if they were solely responsible for her ability to see over the top of her square frames. I pretended not to notice when she cut her eyes to the empty tables on either side of her. I didn’t want those tables. I wanted her. I had played out this scenario in my mind countless times over the past few months and not once had I considered that she may rebuff. Until now, that is, as I hovered, clutching my textbook to my chest and waiting for her to say something. Anything. But she didn’t. Instead, she pushed her glasses up with one finger placed on their bridge and pushed the chair across from her out with her foot, a silent acceptance of my presence.

Lowering myself onto the pine, I observed quietly as she focused her attention back to the screen before her, its bright reflection gleaming in the surface of her glasses. Her hair, the color of burlap and usually pulled into some semblance of bun at the nape of her neck, fell to her shoulders today. I never noticed its wave before. Or the way she gnaws on her lower lip when she reads. Two tiny slashes appeared above her eyebrows, dimples that screamed, “Hush! I’m trying to concentrate.” But I ignored them by talking anyway. “Day off today?” I asked, grasping at anything to strike up a conversation. I had anticipated a much warmer welcome. When she didn’t respond, I repeated myself, a bit louder, which finally got her attention. “Hmm?” she asked, chin raised. “Oh, I was just asking if you had the day off today.” She shook her head and returned her gaze to her screen as she mumbled, “No, I tend not to wear my uniform on days off. Just getting some homework done before I have to clock in.”

Uniform, right. Idiot. “Ah, so the Common Grounds polo shirt isn’t what you wear normally? Outside of work, I mean,” I grinned. She shrugged one shoulder and without looking up from her screen again, replied, “The shirt, yeah. Just not the nametag.” I stretched my spine taller to peer over her laptop to read that aforementioned nametag, pretending like I hadn’t already read it a thousand times before. “Ana,” I pronounced, then asked, “Or is it Ana?” changing the leading sound to a softer A that sounded more like a yawn.

“That’s you,” she said impatiently, glancing up from her screen finally. “I’m sorry?” I asked, leaning forward as though being closer to her would somehow help me understand her better. She motioned over my shoulder to the counter where, when I turned to look, I saw the barista holding a large paper cup and repeating, “Ben?” I turned back to face her, Ana (yawn) or Ana, and took a moment to flash her a cool smile before scrambling up to collect my coffee. On my way back, my toe hit the chair leg and made the seat clatter against the table loudly. She chuckled softly and shook her head but didn’t avert her eyes from her work. “Am I bombing at this? I don’t usually bomb at this,” I laughed good naturedly as I sat myself down again, cradling the cup between my hands, thankful for its warmth.

“It’s neither. It’s Analisa but the manager said that wouldn’t fit on the nametag,” she replied, sidestepping my embarrassing question by reverting to the question before it. (Like a yawn, by the way.) I took the lid off my cup, letting the steam escape, and blew on the surface of the caramel colored liquid. “Well, Ana works, doesn’t it?” I asked, sipping more cautiously than I was speaking. She shook her head, glancing at me briefly to say, “My friends call me Lise. But nobody asked me before printing the nametag.” Setting my cup down on top of my textbook, I pressed on. “That’s shit, isn’t it? Why not say something? Ask them to make you a new one, Lise.” Without skipping a beat or looking up again, she sniped, “You and I are not friends, Ben.” It caught me off-guard. How do I respond to that? “Right. So, please, call me Benjamin,” I smiled back at her.

She reached one hand up, its fingers slender as bone, pale pink polish chipped almost completely off, to close her laptop. Success! I thought. “Well, Benjamin,” she said, emphasizing the last two syllables of my name. “If by ‘this’ you mean interrupting a study session before a girl’s got to go to work, then no. You are very much not bombing at this. You do this often?” She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back in her chair, waiting. It was unnerving. Her watchfulness. Her coldness. None of it was expected. I stared back at her, letting myself break into a wary smile only after she relaxed and set to fastening her hair back with the elastic that had been lying in wait around her wrist. “Look, Analisa,” I began, pausing for a sip of coffee. “I’ve bided my time pretty patiently. So, I’m sorry if you feel I’m interrupting something here. But I didn’t want to let another day slip away without saying hello.” She finished pulling her hair into its signature bun and leaned forward on her elbows. I’ve got her now, I thought, invigorated by what her change in body language conveyed. “Let me take you to dinner Saturday,” I blurted.

“Tomorrow? No can do, Benny boy,” she shrugged. “It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’ve already committed to dinner with my parents.”

“Happy birthday,” I acquiesced before adding, “That explains so much.” She gazed at me somewhat quizzically until I said, “You’re a Pisces.” Her demeanor changed then. She tapped a finger on my textbook and taunted, “Tell me. What’s a boy who carts around a book called The Fundamentals of Political Science know about astrology?” I replaced the lid on my coffee and sipped it through the spout. “Well, Pisces tend to be a little closed-off, preferring to be alone. So, this cat-and-mouse game really couldn’t have been avoided, could it? It’s in your DNA to be cautious,” I asserted.

She scoffed, “I’m closed-off just because I’m busy tomorrow?”

I locked eyes with her, flirting with nothing more than a glance and a smile. “But Pisces are also an empathetic and generous people so really it’s only a matter of time before you appreciate that I’ve put myself out there and give in to letting me take you out.” Her smirk was the only indicator I needed to seal the deal with one final blow. “I’ve also heard that Pisces are mind-blowing lovers. And I intend to find out.” She chuckled softly then, shaking her head with derision. “What about Sunday?” I asked.

“I’ve got plans on Sunday,” she beamed back.

“Yeah? What have you got going on then?” I asked.

Something changed in her face just then and I was almost ready to concede to not having been able to crack her open. But then she went and did it. She lowered her chin and her voice by an octave to said, “I’m working until 5pm and then having dinner with Ben.”

I nodded once, rising from the table and picking up my coffee and my book. “I’ll pick you up here at 5:00, then, Lise.” And I turned to the door before she could change her mind.


30-Day Writing Challenge


Take Me Back… July 17, 2020

(Day 16: Write about something that you miss.)

Here we are. Mid-July. [When did THAT happen, anyway?!] The United States has been trying like hell to fight against Covid-19 since March. And my home state, Connecticut, which began as a hotbed of infections, has led the charge in flattening the curve and getting transmission rates under control. Our reward? We’re currently on “phase 2” of Governor Lamont’s reopening plan with an eye toward “phase 3.” Great news, right? Well, yes. But there’s still a long list of things that I miss. Things that aren’t back to normal yet. Today, I’d like to talk about the number one item on that list.

Bring it in because I’m only going to admit to this once. Are you ready? I miss working from my office. In mid-March, as I was packing up a box of necessities from my desk, I felt an excitement in my belly. The plan was to work remotely to adhere to local “stay at home” orders. There was no talk of how long the arrangement would last but I think most of us envisioned a few weeks, tops. And when I locked the office for the last time four months ago, I was ready to be remote. Ready to stop incessantly pumping hand sanitizer onto chapped hands in an effort to protect those around me. Ready to let some of my anxiety over the virus fall away finally. No more co-mingling with possible carriers. No more constant worry about whether or not I’ve touched my face.

The beginning of working remotely was an adjustment, but not necessarily in a bad way. I pulled my daughter from daycare, glad to have her home safe with me. I enjoyed a fluid work station, having traded my desktop computer at work for my laptop in bed or at the dining room table or on my couch or lounging in the backyard. It felt freeing. A little fun, even. A girl could get used to this, I thought. But as the weeks became months, I soon realized the folly of my initial excitement.

These past four months have reminded me why I’ve never chosen to be a WAHM (work at home mom). And the main reason is because it’s virtually. fucking. impossible. In the beginning, I told myself it would get easier when the school year ended so I wouldn’t have to play teacher for part of the day during “distance learning.” I was wrong. In the middle, I told myself it would get easier when my daughter was able to get back to the hobbies she loves, soccer and dance. I was wrong about that, too. Lately, I’ve been telling myself that it would get easier if I just re-enrolled her in daycare. But let’s face it. The mom guilt over even contemplating sending her to daycare when I’m “just at home” is rooted too deep to ever actually allow me to do such a thing. So I forge on. Constantly distracted.

My work day begins, as it always has, at 8am. Only instead of settling into my office, firing up my workstation with its two monitors, and focusing on my tasks in a distraction-free space, things are a bit more chaotic these days. The physical space in which I work varies based on whether my laptop needs to be plugged in or whether or not I’ll need to print anything imminently. It varies based on what my daughter is doing at the time; sometimes the TV is too loud for me to answer phone calls, other times I need to be within earshot of her to thwart arguments between her and the neighborhood kids. It varies based on the time of day and what non-work-related thing is in demand at the time; has she had lunch? How many snacks has that been today? She wants to take a bubble bath at 2pm?

Sometimes I have to apologize to clients for the sound of my dog barking in the background. Sometimes I have to barricade myself in the bedroom to get enough privacy to complete a Zoom meeting. Sometimes I need to pretend like I didn’t just step over and around three thousand and twelve toys on the living room floor to get a glass of water. Sometimes I need to be okay with my daughter running the hose all. day. long. because it keeps her happy and lets me work in peace. Sometimes I’ve got to walk away from work briefly to get ice for her scrape or to help her decipher a word she can’t figure out or to let the dog in for the millionth time.

By the time my husband comes home from his office—that lucky bastard!—I’m a ball of nerves. At the end of my patience. Often on the verge of tears. I’ve spent all day being pulled in a dozen directions, trying to please everyone by filling two roles—mom and worker. And feeling like a failure at both. I give all I can, leaving pieces of myself everywhere. And by the time hubby’s home, the task of gathering all those pieces to make myself whole again feels daunting. But wait. There’s more. I remind myself to show him patience. He’s worked all day, too, I remind myself. I feel guilty that his welcome home is so frazzled (emotionally) and messy (physically). I feel guilty at not having picked up all the toys she’s taken out and for not having started to cook dinner yet. I feel guilty about being grumpy. I feel guilty about not having any more grace left in me to help my daughter with the simplest of tasks without snapping at her. And all of this leaves me feeling like a failure at my third role: wife.

I’m confident that my story is not unique. There are millions of other people in my shoes right now. Trying to make the best of juggling working from home and parenthood. Trying to give more of themselves than even exists. Trying not to lose themselves completely in the melee. To them, I say, I see you. I’m with you. And it’ll get easier when we can get back to the office. [Famous last words.]


30-Day Writing Challenge